Egypt Air Boeing 737

Egyptian Flight That Crashed, Killed 66 People Caused by Cigarette

In 2016, a terrible tragedy occurred. A flight traveling from Paris to Cairo suddenly came crashing down into the Mediterranean Sea, killing everyone on board. Since then, the families of the victims have been waiting for answers as to what exactly happened that caused the crash. Finally, we know why: The pilot was smoking in the cockpit, which sparked an accidental fire.

A Cigarette In The Cockpit Caused 2016 Egyptian Plane Crash

After EgyptAir flight MS804 crashed into the Mediterranean in 2016, there has been no clear answer as to what caused the crash. All 66 passengers and all flight crew died in the accident. Since then, families have been waiting for answers. At first, Egypt’s aviation minister said that it was a terrorist attack rather than a problem with the plane or its maintenance. No terrorist group, however, ever claimed the attack. (1)

Because the flight was going from Paris to Cairo and was carrying some French citizens, the French aviation safety agency was also allowed to investigate the crash. According to their research, the plane sent automated messages just before losing contact and falling off the radar. These messages indicated that there was smoke in the cabin and a fault in the flight control just before losing contact. The investigation then changed to that of a manslaughter case.

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Black Box Recordings

The next step, of course, was to analyze the plane’s black box recording. Sure enough, the recordings confirmed what the French investigators already hypothesized. The investigators noticed two rustling sounds coming from the microphone incorporated into the co-pilot’s oxygen mask. These sounds occurred a few minutes before the crash and indicate a strong flow of air. The experts say this indicates the mask was in “emergency mode”. (2)

Three days before the flight, the maintenance crew replaced the oxygen mask in the cockpit of the plane for unknown reasons. When they replaced it, however, the engineer left the mask on emergency mode instead of normal. This is why the mask was then leaking.

What they discovered was that a spark of some sort started the first flame that caused the fire in the cockpit. This oxygen escaping from the co-pilot’s mask would have come in contact with the cigarette that one of the pilots was smoking. This will have then caused the oxygen to combust.

Experts say that the fire developed rapidly. There were also voice recordings obtained from the black box that indicates the pilots saying that they were tired during the overnight flight. The information available to the legal experts, however, reveals that the designated rest schedules were respected.  


Regular Cockpit Smoking

It is important to note that, at this time, pilots were still permitted to smoke in the cockpit on Egyptian airlines. In fact, it is not technically illegal for pilots to smoke in the cockpit. Most airlines, at the very least, have very strict policies on smoking on planes. This goes for both passengers and the crew. 

Smoking in the cockpit is apparently an issue quite frequently on Egyptian Airlines. There are several forums online where people discuss being able to smell the smoke wafting through the air vents. When they ask the flight attendants, they tell them it is because the pilots are smoking. (3)

In the forums, many people argue that it is a cultural thing and if others don’t like it, they should choose a different airline. Now, of course, I’m sure there will be many who will be considering it not just because of the bad smell. Beyond the health and air quality of the passengers on board the plane, this investigation has proven another reason for a complete ban of onboard smoking. Perhaps if there are still airlines that permit their pilots to smoke in the cockpit, they will now consider changing those regulations.

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  1. EgyptAir plane crash that killed 66 likely caused by pilot’s cigarette, documents reveal.” CBS News. April 28, 2022.
  2. Cigarette in cockpit caused EgyptAir passenger jet to crash, killing all on board, investigation finds.” Sky. April 27, 2022.
  3. Has anyone else endured cigarette smoke on Egypt Air.” Trip Advisor
Julie Hambleton
Freelance Writer
Julie Hambleton has a BSc in Food and Nutrition from the Western University, Canada, is a former certified personal trainer and a competitive runner. Julie loves food, culture, and health, and enjoys sharing her knowledge to help others make positive changes and live healthier lives.